Late Summer in the Adirondack State Park

We just returned from a trip last week to the Adirondacks, located just east of the town of Indian Lake, our primary goal being to photograph some interesting landscapes.  We rented a lodge which the locals refer to as camps.  It was really more like a fully furnished house, except for the knotty pine ceilings and walls, and wide-plank softwood floors–pretty nice. We had  decided that early September was the best time to go since it was well after “bug season,” the foliage would contain a little fall color, the summer crowd was gone, and the peak foliage crowd yet to arrive.  In other words, we had the mountains pretty much to ourselves.

The history of the Adirondacks is pretty interesting.  The nineteenth century was all about taking from the environment, mostly through logging and mining.  With the turn of the twentieth century and the influence of Teddy Roosevelt and later environmentalists the focus was on preservation and tourism. The park (the size of New Hampshire) is bounded by a “blue line” on conservation maps.  Unlike other New York State parks, there is no charge to get in, and the park both public and private property. The park is regulated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the State Park System, and local municipalities.

We arrived around noon; after getting ourselves oriented in the camp we took a drive over to the chain lakes on route 28. On our return we got out of the car and walked down to the water to check things out.  However, the sky was darkening and since we knew an intense front was approaching we decided we better get back to the camp.  It started raining just as we got back to the car. By the time we turned on to route 28 the rain started “coming down horizontally.”  It was gusting to about 65 MPH and I was concerned the roads would flood, a tree would come down and block our access, or worse, come down on us.  Visibility in rain was only a few hundred feet! Fortunately, we did make it back and stayed in for the rest of the night.

The next morning we started out on a 6 mile round-trip hike to Whortleberry Pond.

Whortleberry Pond

It was a poor choice, since it was rather plain-looking (we should have gone to Ross Pond). The trail was slightly rolling and with little vertical ascent. Pretty easy overall.

On the way back we stopped to photograph a flooded woodland; the water had long since killed all the trees. It was a good example of how nature reclaims the carbon from dead plants and animals through the decaying process and transforms it back for other environment uses. All the scenes were photographed using a circular polarizing filter on my  Canon15-85mm lens @ 15mm.


We were fortunate to have our camp within a few minutes walking distance to Francis Lake. This made it possible for us to sleep-in until 5 AM, have a leisurely coffee, and still be set up about 30 minutes before sunrise. We photographed here on three mornings. The first morning provided the best color, resonating off the ground fog.


The following photo shows the same scene on the second day as the  fog drifts to the right.


The last sunrise photo shows the contrast between the adjacent fog and the sunlit shore. This photo has a bit of a surrealistic feel for me.


Another type of scene we looked for was early morning mountain tops (no high peaks). Much as we would have liked to have been in position before sunrise, we would have had to get up around 3:30 or 4:00 AM, then climb in the dark.  The climbing in the dark, even with flashlights, was the deal breaker for us since it seemed all to easy to twist or break a leg. However, we did manage to start climbing at first-light and so capture the light while the sun was still low (as well as to ensure we would have the summit to ourselves (unlike Everest which is jammed with traffic coming up from several sides of the mountain).

Mt. Sawyer

Castle Rock provided the best view. It’s composed of several rocks atop a hill. The trail steepens dramatically for the last 150 feet or so before reaching the top.  You don’t want to fall off lest you drop 40 to 60 feet, depending on side.  The rock has a resident chipmunk that boldly tries to shake you down for food, or climb into your pack when you’re not looking. He had clearly figured out that hikers are a good food source.

Castle Rock overlooking Blue Mountain Lake

Our third scene type was lakes that we could reach via a short, level hike. We looked for these in the afternoon when we were tired from climbing.

Rock Lake looking toward Barker Mountain

I’d be happy to hear of any challenges you’ve faced in the Adirondacks.  Have you ever gone in during black fly season during late May to early July?

Paddling on Thirteenth Lake

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